We all experience stress and sometimes it seems like there’s nothing we can do about it. Stress is unavoidable, and to some extent, it is an essential part of life. Although everyone experiences stress, the cause can be different from one person to another. For example, being busy may overwhelm a person, while another might actually love having many things to do. Being stuck in a crazy traffic jam can make a person angry, while another might think it’s a mild inconvenience. Although stress is inescapable, there are things you can do to manage it once you realize that you actually have a lot more control of your life.
You need to manage your stress because it can have a serious impact on your overall wellbeing. When you let stress get the best of you, you put yourself at risk of developing a variety of diseases. When you’re stressed, your brain experiences chemical and physical changes, affecting its overall function. From headaches to premature death, stress is closely related to numerous health problems. The effects of stress are also strongly linked to mental health conditions, as it can result in depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), psychosis, and others.
Effective stress management can lead to a healthier, happier, and more productive life. It is important to remember that stress management is different for everyone. Therefore, it is important to experiment so you can find out what works for you. Here are some stress management tips and strategies you can follow:
Know the sources of stress or your stressor
Identifying the source of stress (known as stressors) is the first step you will need to undertake to manage your stress. What we consider as “stressful” is based on our unique perceptions of what we encounter in our life. It is created by our own mix of personality traits, habitual thought patterns, and available resources. Major stressors like the death of a loved one, a divorce, changing jobs, or moving are easy to identify, but identifying other “minor” stressors is not as easy as it may sound. You may overlook your own feelings, thoughts, or behavior that may play a large part in your stress levels.
To identify your stressors and how you deal with them, you can have a stress journal. Keep track of your stressors by writing it down every time you feel stress. When you keep a daily log, it will be easier for you to see the patterns of your stress. Write down your stressors (you can guess if you’re not sure), how you felt, how you respond, and what makes you feel better.
Avoid stress that is unnecessary
Some stress needs to be addressed and should not be avoided. However, you can eliminate your stress by avoiding some minor and unnecessary stressors. The following are ways you can do this:
- Make a to-do list and identify the stress elements of it. Look at your schedule, daily tasks, and responsibility. If you see that there are just too many things to do, drop the ones that aren’t really necessary to the bottom of the list or eliminate them completely.
- Learn to say “no.” You need to know your limits. If someone is asking you for help when you already have so much on your plate, it is completely okay for you to say no. Learn the difference between “should” and “must.”
- Take control of your own environment. If being in traffic makes you angry, try to find another route or avoid rush hour. If you don’t like going to the market, opt for online shopping.
- Limit the amount of time you spend with people who stress you out. Some people can be demanding and ask a lot of unnecessary questions without any reason. For instance, a friend constantly asking you about when you’re planning to get married or belittling your achievements. You may also find that some people are just too stressful for you in their own way. When this happens, limit the time you spend with them or avoid them completely.
Change the situation that you find stressful
Sometimes you can’t change your stressors, but you can always alter it by changing the way you operate and communicate.
- Express your feelings. Sometimes we can’t just avoid a person, especially when they’re someone we love and care about. Therefore, when these people are bothering you, you need to communicate with them. Tell them what’s bothering you or what annoyed you openly and respectfully. Voice your feelings, because if you don’t, it could build resentment and increase your stress.
- Compromise. If you ask someone to change their behavior because they’re stressing you out, be willing to do the same and find a middle ground that will make you both happier.
- Balance your schedule. Your work may be stressful and you feel like you need more than 24 hours a day. But remember that you need to balance your work, family life, social activities, daily responsibilities, and relaxation or downtime. Having a healthy work-life balance is the key to avoiding burnout.
Accept the situations you can’t change
There are stressors that you can’t avoid. You can’t prevent death or serious illness, so the best way to cope is to accept it. Acceptance is difficult, but it’s going to make everything a lot easier for you in the long run.
- Don’t try to control what you can’t control. Other people’s behavior, how some things turn out, and many other things in life are beyond your control. Don’t stress out over them, but focus on things you can control and the way you react.
- Forgive. Our world is imperfect and people make mistakes all the time. Learn to forgive because it will allow you to free yourself from negative energy. Let go of anger, forgive, and move on.
- Learn from your mistakes. If you think that your stressful situations are the result of your own poor choices, reflect and learn from those mistakes.
- Talk about your feelings. Express what you’re going through to a friend or see a therapist. Talking about your stress can be helpful even though there’s nothing you can do about the situation.
Adapt to your stressful situations
When you can’t change your stressor, change yourself. Regain your sense of control by changing your attitude and expectations.
- Readjust your standards. It’s normal for us to want everything to go perfectly and smoothly, but if you can’t accept failure, you are more likely to stress. Set reasonable standards, both for yourself and others. Learn to be okay with “good enough.”
- Gratitude. When you feel down because of stress, take a moment and reflect on everything that you appreciate in life.
- Try to have a positive attitude toward everything. Reframe your problems to reduce your stress. If you are stuck in a traffic jam, look at it as an opportunity to enjoy some alone time or to sing to your favorite songs.
Use quick stress relievers
There are stress relief techniques that can calm your body’s stress response. Stress relievers won’t minimize your stressors, but they can help calm you. When you’re calmer, you are less likely to lash out at others and you can approach your problems proactively and thoughtfully. Try breathing exercise, take a little walk outside to enjoy nature, light a scented candle, try essential oils, give yourself a neck or hand massage, sip a cup of tea or a refreshing drink, stretch out, dance around, or listen to your favorite uplifting music and sing along.
Have a healthy lifestyle
Your resistance to stress can be increased by having a healthy lifestyle. Exercise regularly because physical activity can help release pent-up tension and stress. Reduce caffeine and sugar because temporary highs can end with a crash in energy and mood. Know that alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs are not a medication and they’re only a temporary escape from stress. Besides, they can give you more problems. Get adequate sleep as it can fuel your mind and body. Tiredness and sleep-deprivation will only increase your stress.